Exercising in the cold can be tough. Obviously. If you're more likely to hit snooze than hit the pavement when the temp drops, you’re not alone. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows that the percentage of Americans who regularly get 30 or more minutes of exercise three or more days a week drops significantly between November and March, with all-time lows hitting in December and January. No surprise there. Dark, cold weather doesn't inspire loads of outdoor time.
But there are ways to actually make winter exercise somewhat enjoyable. Your fitness doesn't take snow days, after all! From wearing proper clothing to making exercise a game, here are a seven tips from fitness experts on how to stop dreading exercising in the cold.
Do a Mini Warm-Up Before Heading Outside
Those first steps out into the cold can be brutal, but they're even worse when you're not at all warmed up. Nicole Simonin, a fitness professional from south New Jersey who trains clients in her private studio and online, recommends doing a mini warm-up before heading outside. "Something to get the heart pumping but not sweating," she says. "This will help you hold the warmth as you go out into the cold weather." Simple activities like walking your hallway a couple times or marching in place for a few minutes will do.
Try to Workout During Daytime
We know. This one seems unachievable. It's dark till 7 a.m. and dark again by 4 p.m. If you work a regular 9-to-5 job, getting those sweat seshes in when it's light outside is difficult. But it's worth a try, says Sarah Pace, an Arizona-based certified health coach and personal trainer. "Exercising in the cold is difficult enough," she says. Having the sun shine on your face or at least being able to see your surroundings makes outdoor exercise more enjoyable—and safer. So it's worth doing what you can to align your winter workouts with the sun. Get some steps in during your lunch break. Rework your winter work schedule, if you can, to allow for slightly later mornings. Consider biking or running to work a couple of days a week. It takes extra planning, but it's worth it for a more enjoyable workout.
Download a Podcast
Practice the art of distraction by listening to an engaging podcast while exercising. Just like getting lost in a good book, getting lost in a podcast is an easy way to stop focusing on how freezing your are. “Podcasts I love aren’t about exercise or mindfulness," Pace says. "Rather, they are ones I use to distract me from the chilly temps. They are engaging and lighthearted or tell a captivating story that motivates me to keep exercising rather than quit early." She recommends Freakonomics Radio, This American Life, Every Little Thing, and Science Vs. “I usually save up several episodes to listen to at once during a longer walk, hike, or workout," she says.
Layer Up Your Clothing
Dressing right can make all the difference. REI recommends wearing three layers of clothing for winter exercise. Your base layer should wick sweat, so choose a synthetic material like polypropylene. The second layer, your middle layer, should insulate and keep you warm. Wool, wool blends, polyester fleece, or down-insulated puffy jackets work well. The outer layer should protect you from the wind and rain. Any shell will do as long as it’s treated with a water-repellent. And don't forget a hat that covers your ears, Pace says. A wool cap is a good option for retaining body heat and getting maximum chill-protection.
Pump the Tunes
Music can make the minutes fly by, so make sure you've got a bumping playlist. Download your favorite songs and only let yourself listen to them while exercising. If you thrive on challenges, set a goal to listen to a certain number of songs before calling your workout quits. High-energy music will help keep your pace up. Simonin says artists like Flo Rida, Pitbull, Eminem, Lil John, Imagine Dragons, and One Republic are her exercise standbys, but "any dance song with a funky beat works."
Make It Child’s Play
Ditch the reps and cardio machines and up the fun factor by adding silliness. Revisiting your childhood is all it takes. “Build a snowman," Pace suggests. "You’ll fire up your hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders." Sledding is another great way to log a high-intensity interval workout. "Climbing up the hill with the sled is the high-intensity portion, and on the ride down you earn a recovery,” Pace says. If you’d rather work on core and agility, snow angels are your move. "Make a snow angel family, or make a giant snowflake by rotating your snow angel shape around the same head position," she says.
Sometimes all you need to get out the door is a bit of motivation—and maybe some friendly competition. Workout apps are a great way to get a boost. There are various free phone apps that let you to share your workout stats with friends, compete with others virtually, and challenge others to boost their workouts. “Fitbit has a community tab where you can share your challenge wins, workout tips, and inspiration and quotes with other Fitbit friends," Pace says. Strava lets you post your run stats, share pics, and even see runs your friends did so you can run the same course. My Fitness Pal is another great option for following and supporting others on their winter workout journeys.